All Tomorrow’s Parties (William Gibson 1999)

All Tomorrow's Parties.jpg

Finally we’re at the third book of William Gibson’s Bridge Trilogy. I’ll admit straight out that I didn’t enjoy this book that much, though I am debating whether or not it is still better than Virtual Light. The book features many characters before. Chevette Washington is back, and so is Berry Rydell, with the latter reclaiming his title as protagonist. Colin Laney is still in the story but his point of view segments are limited and he is now as supporting character. The main plot revolves around Berry Rydell when Laney develops an obsession with a man named Cody Harwood, a media baron, and is convinced that Harwood is at the centre of a huge historical shift which may lead to the end of the world as they know it. He hires Rydell as a courier in order to stop Harwood, sending him to San Francisco, where he believes the next “nodal point” will converge.

I’ll admit that a few of the characters feel thrown in. Chevette’s subplot with the abusive boyfriend is boring and as a character she hasn’t really changed. Berry Rydell is sadly the same character as he was in the first book, boring and generic. Laney is interesting, perhaps more so than in previous books and as a result I lament the fact that he is no longer the book’s protagonist. Rei Toi was a welcome return, though it came as a bit of a strange surprise since in my eyes her story arc ended in the previous book. As a result her appearance felt a bit strange and out of place.

In terms of the point of view there are a number of entertaining segments. Laney’s point of view segments have notably evolved, perhaps to show his decline in daily functioning. His sections are written in third person present tense, contrasting with the past tense present in the rest of the novel. It was a bit strange to read and the switch in tenses bothered me a little bit, though I’ll admit I liked it better than the present tense in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and the instances where it is present are better written. This style is reused in a number of other characters’ point of views such as Konrad, the tao obsessed assassin hired by Harwood and Silencio, a mute savant boy who is obsessed with watches. Both have very interesting point of views primarily because they are such strange characters.

The biggest problem with the book is the abundance of point of view characters and the various subplots that come with them. A few of the characters probably didn’t need point of view segments. I also had a lot of difficulty understanding the main plot, which may be because there wasn’t a lot of time devoted to it. Even after spending the second book following Laney I still didn’t understand quite how his “nodal points” work beyond it being magical drugs stuff. I also didn’t really understand Harwood or his role as an antagonist that well, particularly because he hardly appears anywhere in the novel, and I didn’t understand why he was a threat or what exactly the threat was which Laney was seeing.

As a whole I feel like the book is trying to do too much in too little time. It focuses so much on hammering in its themes through different point of view characters and subplots that by the end I was just as confused as I was when I started. I’ll admit that it felt like a cyberpunk story so it has that as an advantage over Virtual Light, instead it suffers from the fact that it makes no damn sense. It spends more time trying to bring the trilogy together in a nice neat circle that somewhere down the line it forgot that it had to make sense. Probably a weak ending to a trilogy which left me with mixed feelings overall.

SCORE: 3/5




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